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Morning Spew

City of No More Bodegas

An effort to make shopping local even more convenient will probably fail, and more links to start your day.

(Robinson Greig / Unsplash)

New York City's bodegas offer residents an increasingly rare, although certainly not unique-to-only-NYC experience in the East Coast megalopolis: the ability to buy pretty much everything you might urgently need within a two-minute walk from your home, as well as lottery tickets, (sometimes) hot food, a six pack, and the chance to dig your hand into the deeply-soothing blue rubber handball bin just for fun. For New Yorkers in the most dense parts of the city, you're almost never further than a block or two away from a place that fills the need that the vast majority of Americans must now get into a car to experience—or worse, go on the Internet and order for delivery. 

One of the city's greatest attributes is its density, and the Adams administration, to their credit, gets that. It's trying to rezone large swaths of the city as part of its "City of Yes" proposal, meant to increase the density of new residential and commercial development in areas of the city that are close to mass transit. And with taller and bigger housing complexes and more dense neighborhoods? One of the city's most precious resources would likewise also need to expand—more bodegas. 

The zoning proposal would allow bodegas to open up in areas that are zoned residential, where they're currently banned. Currently, by virtue of the dozens of overlapping zoning restrictions that dictate exactly where certain businesses can or cannot exist, bodegas are pretty much banned from "residential zones." The raft of new zoning proposals is now hurtling towards a contentious vote in the City Council, and several pieces of the legislation are ending up on the cutting room floor, as it bounces between City Council committees. 

Now, the dream of bodegas for all might be dead, according to Crain's:

Council lawmakers have won some concessions from the administration: A proposal to allow corner stores in residential areas has been nixed, three people said. The idea has long been championed by reform-minded planners as a way of encouraging lively neighborhoods, but its removal satisfies council members who objected to the intrusion of commerce and doubted the feasibility of the approval process, which would have involved special permits for each store.

Let's count some of the threats to these neighborhoods posed by bodegas: less driving, less traffic, less online delivery, more human interactions, more 12-year-old Yemeni kids absolutely owning your "I just needed to go out for toilet paper" fit, and random new sodas of ill repute. 

Having already recently vanquished the short-lived onslaught on the five-minute delivery services, New York's bodegas should be in an expansionary period. But instead, once again, the parochial attitudes of the city's hinterlands are holding back what makes the city great. We beg the City Council, unleash bodegas for all. 

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